Curler, Olympic Medal Winner
Sandra Schmirler makes a speech at ‘An Evening With Champions’. Sharing the podium with Schmirler’s rink mates (who are in red) are (from left to right) Bob Hughes of the Leader-Post, Mayor Doug Archer, Premier Roy Romanow and Lieutenant-Governor Silvia Fedoruk. The person next to the podium is unidentified. 1994. CORA-C-1045.
Sandra Schmirler, already a success in women’s curling, had become one of Canada’s best-known women athletes. Her tragic death at an early age helped to turn her into a sports legend.
Sandra Schmirler was born in 1963. Her early years were spent in Biggar, Saskatchewan, where her first sporting love was hockey. An active little girl who excelled at most sports, Schmirler latched on to curling at age 12, hoping to one day wear green and white as part of Team Saskatchewan. (She would eventually become a 6-time provincial champion.)
Schmirler’s curling career didn’t start out as promising as it finished, however. 1990 was a very disappointing year. She decided to form her own rink that year with Betker, Gudereit and McCusker. The women made a great team. They won 3 Canadian championships in 1993, 1994 and 1997. Schmirler became known as the “Queen of Hearts” because of her repeated victories at the Tournament of Hearts.
At that time, no women’s team consisting of the same 4 members had ever won more than one world championship. Schmirler’s rink broke that curse, winning the world championships the same 3 years as the Canadian championships. The Schmirler rink was well-respected in Canadian and world curling circles not only for their curling skills but for their humble, down-to-earth personalities.
Curling was introduced at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The Schmirler rink represented Canada at the 1998 Winter Olympics and was comprised of Jan Betker, Marcia Gudereit, Joan McCusker and skip Sandra Schmirler. Their gold medal win vaulted the women into the international media spotlight. Sandra Schmirler was the “Queen of Curling”. The Schmirler rink returned to a media frenzy in Regina. They met everyone from the Mayor to the Premier. The Schmirler rink was on top of the sporting world.
Schmirler’s personal life was going well. She married Shannon England and had 2 daughters, Sara and Jenna. During her second pregnancy, however, Schmirler’s life was sent into a tailspin. Her father Art Schmirler passed away in April 1999 from esophageal cancer. At the time, Sandra Schmirler was suffering from agonizing back pain believed to be pregnancy-related. But the symptoms did not abate after Schmirler gave birth in June 1999 and she began to suffer from stomach pains.
Tests indicated a possibility of treatable forms of cancer like lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease. The true diagnosis was much worse than anyone could imagine: metastatic adenocarcinoma with an unknown primary site. Schmirler referred to it as the “cancer from Mars”. The prognosis was not good. Although Schmirler fought bravely, it was only a few months before she lost her battle. She passed away at the age of 36 on March 2, 2000.
Sandra Schmirler’s memory lives on through:
- The Sandra Schmirler Foundation which raises money for a number of worthy causes, including the Children’s Wish Foundation.
- The Sandra Schmirler Charity Curling Classic raises funds for charity.
- The City of Regina renamed the road to the Caledonia Curling Club, Schmirler’s home rink, in her honour through a special act of city council.